China plans to establish 1,000 methadone replacement clinics within five years covering 200,000 drug addicts, to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS among drug addicts.
Eight clinics have been open in the first half of this year in Yunnan and Sichuan provinces, according to Dr Wu Zunyou, director of the Department of Health Education and Behavioural Intervention at the National Center for AIDS Prevention and Control.
The established clinics are able to cover more than 1,000 drug addicts, said Wu in an interview with Xinhua on Tuesday.
By the end of 2005, the number of methadone replacement clinics will reach 100, Wu said.
The use of methadone, a synthetic opiate, as a substitute for heroin
for die-hard drug addicts is becoming more common due to its effectiveness and safety.
Methadone is taken orally, providing addicts with an additional option for getting off the needle and sharing needles, which has caused an explosion in the number of HIV cases.
The central government has increased its annual budget for HIV/AIDS prevention and control from 15 million yuan (US$1.8 million) in 2001 to 390 million yuan (US$47 million) last year.
Another 2.5 billion yuan (US$300 million) has been earmarked to improve the construction of public blood banks in central and western China to prevent transmission through sub-standard blood collection and transfusion procedures.
(China Daily November 18, 2004)